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Fatality rate stays high

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Kansas is on track to reach 400 traffic fatalities for the year, on par with what it has seen in recent years.

"Pretty close to the normal for the last four to five years," said Chris Bortz, assistant traffic safety manager for the Kansas Department of Transportation.

That's actually a drop from peak years, notably 1999 when Kansas recorded 536 fatalities.

KDOT is hoping to focus more attention on the fatalities, and the reasons behind them.

"Alcohol is actually a huge factor," Bortz said, noting it's responsible for anywhere from 20 percent to 25 percent of the total.

But that's not the only reason.

"One of the primary things we're trying to do is get people to slow down and avoid distractions," he said.

And not just the use of cellphones, but anything that takes a driver's focus away from the task at hand.

Slowing down is another push, as Bortz said speed is a significant contributor to fatality accidents.

"One of the things," he said of what the state's transportation department is doing, "is trying to bring it back home. People don't realize there are 400 fatalities in the state."

Being aware might help.

"It's not only you on the road," Bortz said of being aware of what other drivers are doing. "Unfortunately, some people do crazy things on the road."

Details about fatality accidents in Kansas can be found online at www.ktsro.org.

* * *

Fatalities in Kansas through the years:

Year Deaths

1998 493

1999 536

2000 461

2001 494

2002 507

2003 469

2004 459

2005 428

2006 464

2007 416

2008 385

2009 386

2010 431

2011 382

2012 362

Source: KDOT